Staying Present in a Performance Review – Key Tips

Even with effective planning, performance reviews can take many turns during the conversation.  Here are some common patterns that can occur in the conversation, and ways to keep things on track and focused on outcomes.

  • Start with identifying projects or tasks that were key areas of focus for the year. Ask the employee what went well that he or she is proud of. What might the person do differently next time?  Giving the person time to respond often leads them to state the feedback you were nervous to give—by framing it as a question about what the person would do differently next time, it opens the door to initiating the discussion you both know needs to be had.
  • If the employee is overdoing a strength (too much analysis is leading to deadlines not being met), consider framing it in that way: “We all have strengths that when taken too far can get in our way. I see one of your strengths as ___. Sometimes, though, that appears to result in ___. For example, ___. What are your thoughts on that?”
  • Keep the focus on the person’s specific role and activities. If the employee starts blaming others or gives excuses, refocus on what they own—acknowledge others were involved, and then ask about what the employee is willing to take responsibility for. Give time for a response.
  • Consider asking the person what rating they would give themselves and why. If you have been effectively communicating feedback throughout the year, most people will be realistic about their work, and will be generally honest in return. If someone states an unexpected response, ask them what led to the answer—hearing their perspective will help you understand how they see the situation, giving you more information with which to course correct in response.

Feedback is more memorable when the person receiving the feedback says the key points on their own. Trust the process—given the space and the chance, people will often beat you to the point. Knowing what you want to say but guiding the recipient through a collaborative process decreases stress and builds the relationship.